Politics of knowledge, processes of social inclusion/exclusion

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My journey as a researcher started in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. I was trained as an engineer thinking that technology can help us to improve lives. I was trained to think of technology as something that is developed in research centres and myself would not think of other ways of knowledge until several years later. I lived immerse in an environment that also was rich in knowledge and technologies know commonly as traditional knowledge or indigenous knowledge and yet, I would think of these ways of knowledge as something different because my life and those technologies were intertwined in many intangible ways but at the same time, the rational behind this intertwining was different to what we call production/modernisation/development.  In the practice, one of the most striking moments was to talk about seeds, native maize to be precise. While for many years I worked with improved varieties of sorghum and looking at efficient ways to use water in agriculture, when I had to work with maize, I knew this topic was close to my hear. I was in the hills in 2012 in Chiapas and a researcher asked me why farmers cultivated maize every 1.5 m, my answer was “because they need a milpa, it is normal”. He was not convinced and told me that to increase maize production, farmers needed to switch their seeds to improved ones and have higher planting densities. I was shocked and questioned myself on the way we, as I am part of this community of researchers, design interventions and the assumptions behind that. Thus, I embarked myself in this PhD to understand what are the politics behind knowledge, research and interventions making in agriculture. For my current research I work on questions such as what is knowledge and technology? Is it something generated in “big research centers”? Is is a native seed or local knowledge? to achieve what? More profits? as part of the “comunalidad?”? For what context? Who frames the projects that embed those technologies/knowledge? Do we have to have technology oriented projects or is there other option and why? What type of improvements we are aiming for? how does development is framed? Who is benefiting? Why? Who is not? Why? Is this re-elevant? Can we have “outfits” that suit different realities and life rational/worlds-views/worlds and how?

I ask myself many of those questions. It is true that I am engaged in academia but being honest, one of the things I enjoy the most is talking to farmers, technicians, researchers, policy makers and learning what they do and why. I never thought of myself as a development practitioner until I encountered with several worlds that challenged what I knew and pushed me to jump into what I did not…

In summary, for my PhD I look at processes of social inclusion/exclusion in technology driven interventions in agriculture. My departing point are technologies and how they come to play a role on different actors lives and how is that they relate with those technologies, i.e. who is included or excluded from using them. Currently I am at the stage of writing up my dissertation. Some publication and papers in progress are:

  • T. E. Martínez-Cruz, C. J. M. Almekinders & T. C. Camacho-Villa (2019) Collaborative research on Conservation Agriculture in Bajío, Mexico: continuities and discontinuities of partnerships, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2019.1625593
  • Tania Carolina Camacho-Villa, Conny Almekinders, Jon Hellin, Tania Eulalia Martinez-Cruz, Roberto Rendon-Medel, Francisco Guevara-Hernández, Tina D. Beuchelt & Bram Govaerts (2016) The evolution of the MasAgro hubs: responsiveness and serendipity as drivers of agricultural innovation in a dynamic and heterogeneous context, The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 22:5, 455-470, DOI: 10.1080/1389224X.2016.1227091
  • Martinez-Cruz, TE., Leeuwis C. Almekinders C., Camacho-Villa TC and Govaerts B. (Submitted to a journal, 2018). The Echternach procession for learning in a SMS mobile based intervention: the case of MasAgro Movil in Mexico, three steps forward and two steps back.
  • Martinez-Cruz, TE. et al. (In progress). Hybridization of technological cultures: Encounters of the traditional milpa in the modernity in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Martinez-Cruz, TE. et al. (In progress) “An institutional ethnography of the Sustainable Modernization of the Traditional Agriculture Program (MasAgro) in Mexico”.

My PhD project relates to MasAgro Program in Mexico and I have been following the project closely since 2012, specifically the component of “take it to the farmer”. As my aim to describe mechanisms of social inclusion/exclusion in technology driven interventions, the MasAgro project is my case study.  I have collaborated in different workshops as part of the project.

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